Friday, February 21, 2014

28 Stories - Study 24: 300 Men and God's Help

Fundamental: The Remnant and its Mission

Bible Story  

Gideon and his 32,000 men moved toward the enemy. Although greatly outnumbered, they knew God was with them.
“If God is for us, who can stand against us?” the men said to each other. As they marched toward the inevitable battle, encouraging comments moved from one soldier to the next. God was surely with them. He called Gideon. He formed them into an army. And He would help them defeat their enemy.
What happened the next morning came as a huge surprise to the men of Israel. Gideon came out of his tent looking ashen faced and bewildered. He called the men to assemble. When they had done so, he shouted, “God spoke to me last night.”
Murmurs rippled through the crowd. Every time God spoke to Gideon, something big happened. What would it be this time?
“God told me...” Gideon chewed his lip for a long moment scanning the masses of men. “Well, God told me our army is too big.”
A few men laughed. It couldn’t be true. God wouldn’t say such a ridiculous thing. There were 10 times as many well-armed men in the Midianite army. 32,000 was a big number, but not when compared to the sand on the seashore—and that’s what it looked like when you saw the camels of the Midianite forces.
Gideon continued, “I argued with Him. We are outnumbered as it is!” Men nodded and murmured their agreement. “But God assured me, there are too many men in this army—His army. He said this battle would be won by the Lord’s power not the power of men. If we have too many men, we will claim success for ourselves—as if we had won the battle by our own strength.”
Gideon paused, willing himself to say what God required, “So, God wants all the men who are afraid for any reason to go home.”
In the hearts of many of the men, where yesterday there had been only bravado and cheer, now a wave of panic pounded from inside their chests and butterflies were loosed in their bellies. A sudden cacophony filled the camp as 22,000 men dropped their swords and shields and fled for home. Only 10,000 men remained.
Gideon shook his head sadly and looked up at the sky. Is this what God had expected? Only one third of the army remained. Surely God knew the beginning from the end but this made no sense. What kind of army sent perfectly healthy men home?
Gideon consulted God and was dumbfounded when God repeated His message from the night before, “You still have too many men.” Then God devised a test—a way to reduce the army that would show it had nothing to do with the strength of the men.
They walked to a stream and as they crossed, God told Gideon to separate them into two groups—those who drank using their hand as a scoop and those who knelt to drink. Gideon watched as every man drank. When the two groups were finalised, God told Gideon, “Keep the ones who drank out of their hands.”
To Gideon’s dismay, only 300 men had used their hands to drink. The other 9,700 were sent home. All that remained was a ragtag band of 300 men. But it was as God had commanded.
That night, camped just over the mountain from the enemy, Gideon tossed and turned in his sleep. It made no sense. Surely God needed some help! He couldn’t win the battle without at least a small army. But 300 men was nothing. Fitfully, Gideon woke every few minutes to find that it was not a bad dream—this was reality. He was about to face an army of hundreds of thousands with just 300 men.
In the middle of the night, God spoke to Gideon yet again, “Are you scared, Gideon?”
“More scared than I have ever been!” Gideon cried.
“If you truly are afraid,” God said, “Take your servant Purah and sneak over the mountain into the camp of Midian. Listen to the first voices you hear. You will be given courage!”
Gideon reached over and shook his servant. Purah sat up quickly and rubbed the sleep from his eyes. “Yes, master?”
“Come with me,” Gideon said. “God has told me to sneak into the enemy camp.”
When they reached the camp of Midian, they heard a man wake with a scream. Another man in the same tent asked, “What is it? You nearly scared me to death!”
“I just dreamed that a huge loaf of barley bread rolled into our camp and flattened all of our tents!”
The second man, in a moment of inspiration, answered, “Surely the army of Gideon will sweep in and destroy every last one of us!”
Gideon punched Purah in the shoulder with joy. When they arrived back at their camp Gideon shouted, “Get up! Tonight God has given us victory over the Midianite hordes!”
He gave each man a trumpet and a torch with a jug over it, so it’s light could be seen only at the feet of the man carrying it.
“Do we need our swords?” one of the men asked.
“Yes,” Gideon laughed, “You best bring those too.”
Gideon divided the army into three groups of 100 men. “Each group will go to a different part of the mountain surrounding the Midianite camp,” Gideon said. “And when you see me and my 100 break our jars and hear us blow our trumpets, you do the same. Now move out!”
In the cover of darkness, Gideon’s 300 surrounded the camp of Midian. They watched quietly for the signal. Gideon broke his jar and blew his trumpet followed immediately by the men with him. The other two groups saw and heard the signal and did likewise.
The camp below came to life. Men rushed from their tents still caught in sleep’s stupor. Seeing soldiers running out of every tent, they assumed Gideon’s army was upon them, and they ran their swords through each other. In only a few short minutes nearly all of the Midianite army lay dead in the valley—felled by their own swords.
From the mountainside all around, accompanied by torchlight, a shout rang out, “For the Lord and for Gideon!” And Gideon’s 300 men rushed in to finish what God had started.

My Reflection

What emotions do you think went through Gideon’s heart and mind when there were only 32,000 men and God told him there were too many men?

Then, when there were only 10,000 men God said, “There are still to many men!” How do you think Gideon felt now?

What about when he stood with just 300 men?

Why do you think Gideon did what God said, even when it seemed impossible that God’s plan would work?

Why did the dream of the Midianite give Gideon such courage?

Imagine watching a massive army destroy itself without an enemy fighting it. What must that have been like? What do you think the 300 men thought of God during and after that amazing “battle”?

My Story

Tell of a time when you felt like you were on a spiritual roller coaster—not sure what God was doing as things went from good to bad to good to wherever next. Tell the story. When did you know God was truly with you?

When you look back over your life, can you see God’s leading? Are their times when you felt alone or forgotten by God that you now recognise as God’s strategy for focusing your life?

My Assurance

Although at times it is hard to comprehend God’s leading, He has a plan. Sometimes His plan seems to make no earthly sense. When we are at our weakest, He is strongest among us. How do these verses give you courage to follow Jesus even when things seem impossibly hard?

1 Peter 1:18-19 ~ For you know that God paid a ransom to save you from the empty life you inherited from your ancestors. And the ransom he paid was not mere gold or silver. It was the precious blood of Christ, the sinless, spotless Lamb of God.

Revelation 21:5-7 ~ And the one sitting on the throne said, “Look, I am making everything new!” And then he said to me, “Write this down, for what I tell you is trustworthy and true.” And he also said, “It is finished! I am the Alpha and the Omega—the Beginning and the End. To all who are thirsty I will give freely from the springs of the water of life. All who are victorious will inherit all these blessings, and I will be their God, and they will be my children.

My Commitment

As the second coming of Jesus draws closer, God’s people will stand out more starkly from the rest of the world — His remnant of believers will become clearly visible. How do these verses challenge you to be bold in your faith?

Revelation 18:1, 4 ~ After all this I saw another angel come down from heaven with great authority, and the earth grew bright with his splendor. He gave a mighty shout: “Babylon is fallen—that great city is fallen! She has become a home for demons.” . . . Then I heard another voice calling from heaven,    “Come away from her, my people. Do not take part in her sins, or you will be punished with her.”

1 Peter 1:16-17 ~ For the Scriptures say, “You must be holy because I am holy.” And remember that the heavenly Father to whom you pray has no favorites. He will judge or reward you according to what you do. So you must live in reverent fear of him during your time as “foreigners in the land.”

Jude 1:3 ~ Dear friends, I had been eagerly planning to write to you about the salvation we all share. But now I find that I must write about something else, urging you to defend the faith that God has entrusted once for all time to his holy people.

My Outlook

When we look around us we see only what is taking place in the physical world. The Bible tells us there is a great spiritual war raging behind the scenes with eternal realities that we will see clearly. The unseen will become seen! How do these verses challenge you to see life through spiritual lenses rather than just physical ones?

Revelation 12:17 ~ And the dragon was angry at the woman and declared war against the rest of her children—all who keep God’s commandments and maintain their testimony for Jesus.

2 Peter 3:10-14 ~ But the day of the Lord will come as unexpectedly as a thief. Then the heavens will pass away with a terrible noise, and the very elements themselves will disappear in fire, and the earth and everything on it will be found to deserve judgment. Since everything around us is going to be destroyed like this, what holy and godly lives you should live, looking forward to the day of God and hurrying it along. On that day, he will set the heavens on fire, and the elements will melt away in the flames. But we are looking forward to the new heavens and new earth he has promised, a world filled with God’s righteousness. And so, dear friends, while you are waiting for these things to happen, make every effort to be found living peaceful lives that are pure and blameless in his sight.

Revelation 21:1-5 ~ Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the old heaven and the old earth had disappeared. And the sea was also gone. And I saw the holy city, the new Jerusalem, coming down from God out of heaven like a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. I heard a loud shout from the throne, saying, “Look, God’s home is now among his people! He will live with them, and they will be his people. God himself will be with them. He will wipe every tear from their eyes, and there will be no more death or sorrow or crying or pain. All these things are gone forever.” And the one sitting on the throne said, “Look, I am making everything new!”

My Response

The following statement is the 13th of the 28 fundamental beliefs of the Seventh-day Adventist Church. Review the doctrine and then write a personal response. What difference does this make to your life?

The Remnant and its Mission

The universal church is composed of all who truly believe in Christ, but in the last days, a time of widespread apostasy, a remnant has been called out to keep the commandments of God and the faith of Jesus. This remnant announces the arrival of the judgment hour, proclaims salvation through Christ, and heralds the approach of His second advent. This proclamation is symbolized by the three angels of Revelation 14; it coincides with the work of judgment in heaven and results in a work of repentance and reform on earth. Every believer is called to have a personal part in this worldwide witness.

Bible Story

The Bible story of Gideon can be found in Judges 6-8.

Further Reading

Revelation 14:6-12, 2 Corinthians 5:10, Jude 1:14, Revelation 21:1-14.

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